Topic Overview

Certain conditions, events, and circumstances can be obstacles to
grieving. These may include:

  • Living in a fast-paced society. People who live in fast-paced societies are often hurried
    through grieving when they are required to return to work or
  • Having no formal way to express grief. This can happen, for example, after a
    miscarriage. Ceremonies and rituals
    associated with loss give people ways to express themselves when grieving,
    protect them from being alone and isolated in their grief, and provide a
    boundary or limit for the grieving process.
  • Being unable to participate in a ritual or ceremony. Sometimes people are not
    able to participate in family rituals or ceremonies to express grief. They may
    not live near their family. Or their family may not be able to organize a ritual
    or ceremony to handle the loss. Or they may be too ill or injured to
    participate. Some families do not allow young children to take part in
    rituals or ceremonies.
  • Having certain psychological or cognitive disorders. Conditions such as
    depression, high anxiety or other mental disorders,
    intellectual disability, or
    substance abuse can interfere with a person’s ability
    to grieve.
  • Having certain beliefs and values about grieving or death. For example, people who believe they need to be
    strong for the sake of other people may have difficulty grieving. Some people
    aren’t able to grieve when they lose someone important through an illness that
    frightens them (such as cancer), suicide, or an act of
  • Having unresolved problems with or conflicting feelings about the person who died. Having both positive
    feelings (such as gratitude) and negative feelings (such as resentment) toward
    a deceased person may sometimes interfere with healthy grieving.

Related Information


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jean S. Kutner, MD, MSPH – Geriatric Medicine,
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 6, 2017